The Hardest Lesson I’ve Ever Learned

Last week, I promised four lessons I’ve learned through the years.  This first lesson is one I’m still learning – how to Rest in the Lord.  If anyone has found a sure-fire, all the time, way to do this, I’d be all ears to hear it.  However, the following is a story some of you may have already heard.  Yet, it is one I remember over and over again when I feel that I’m overwhelmed and overburdened, uptight and in turmoil, in a whirlwind and exhausted. Here you go – the hardest lesson I’m still learning – how to rest in the Almighty.

The four-wheel ATV was MASSIVE!  Michael (my husband) had just two words for it:  “Honda” and “Indestructible.”  I looked at it with misgivings.  Yes, I had told my husband I would ride one, too, and the tour was just getting underway.  We hopped on.  Well, I climbed on slowly.  The guide took us across the street to practice in the parking lot.  It wasn’t long (about 15 seconds) until I realized I wasn’t going to be able to handle this rig for two hours up Blackcomb Mountain for a pancake brunch.  Come on, now!  I can’t even figure out how to ride a bicycle that has gears.

I came to a dead stop and just sat there.  Corley, one of the guides, came zooming over and asked, sweetly, “Are you OK?”  I replied, “Yes, I’m fine, but I’m not going to be able to do this.”  She smiled and gave me the “out” I was wanting, “Do you want to ride on the back of your husband’s machine?  Or you could ride on the back with me?”  I jumped at the chance, “I’ll ride with you.  He hasn’t ever ridden one of these, either.”

She put her backpack on me, helped me get on behind her, told me to just “hang on,” and, away we went.

For a little over an hour, we rode “over hill and dale,” up, up, up.  The path was, sometimes, rough, sometimes, through little streams, around big rocks, through beautiful woods.  I hung on tightly as we went up the mountain, sometimes, thinking I might fall off the backend of the ATV.

We had our pancake breakfast and began the trek back down the mountain.  The path down was different than the one we’d taken up and was much easier to navigate.  I didn’t have to cling quite as tightly as on the trip up.  I enjoyed myself coming down the mountain as we stopped to see some bears in the field and watch the beauty of the scenery slip by.

Later that afternoon, I began bemoaning the fact that I hadn’t been able to do the ride alone.  It was at that moment, I began hearing God’s still small voice speaking to my heart.  Here were His words to me:

So, you’re sad you couldn’t do it alone?  Give yourself a break, Joanie.  I had a lesson I wanted to teach you and there is no way you could have learned it if you’d succeeded driving the ATV yourself.  Let me ask you a question.  What did you have to do on the ride?

 I could easily answer that.  All I had to do was get on, hang on tightly, and enjoy the ride.  Then, the lesson of the ATV came clear.  Corley was the one who knew the destination, I didn’t.  She knew how to get there, I didn’t.  She knew how to run the machine, I didn’t.  She knew how to navigate the path, where the big rocks were, when to shift our weight, how to avoid the biggest dips where the water was flowing.  All this and more became clear in my mind.

I had been discussing what true rest in Christ looked like with Him for weeks.  He showed me in one short morning what true rest really was and my part in it.  In order to rest in Him, all I really have to do is “get on with Him, hang on to Him tightly, and enjoy the ride.”  I don’t have to “do” anything.  And that has been my problem…doing, doing, doing.  When I get overwhelmed, in a whirlwind, up tight…well, it’s time to stop, sidle up to Jesus, tuck in quietly with Him.  Let Him do the driving and just breathe, breathe, breathe.

I learned that in order to navigate this life, I need to find my rest in Jesus.  I can’t do it alone, and He’s the only one who knows what is ahead.  So, from time to time, I remember the lesson of the ATV…Just get on, hang on, and enjoy the ride.

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Lessons From the Journey – Introduction

Through the past few years, I have learned a few lessons…well, more than just a few.  The theme of this Blog is “Lessons From the Journey.”  I have attempted during the past year to let you in on some lessons I have learned that might help you, too.  However, there are four lessons that I continue to need help manifesting in my life.

During the next four weeks, I will be letting you in on the Hardest lesson I have learned, the Oddest lesson, the Most Beautiful lesson, and the Most Important lesson.  Some of the stories I will relate, you may have heard me tell before.   Just lift your fingers up with a smile as you let me know how many times you’ve heard “that story before.”  When my kids do that to me, I usually just smile and say, “Well, I’d rather tell it to you again (and again, sometimes) than think I had told you and hadn’t.”  Smiley face!

You can pray for me as I try to relay these lessons in the way the Lord wants them shared.  And, perhaps, you, too, might have some lessons you’ve learned along the way that could be beneficial to others.

See you next week with the Hardest Lesson I ever needed to learn…

Woo Hoo, A New Year!

There is nothing that builds eager anticipation in me like the start of a New Year.  As I began to prepare my journal for the New Year, I started with the one thing I try to do each and every time…list the areas of my life and set goals for each of them.

As I wrote 2018 Goals on the first page of the new book, I thought, “Hmmmm.  I wonder how I did on last year’s goals.”  And promptly turned to the first page of my 2017 Journal and began reading.  I began to literally, laugh out loud.  I could just copy last year’s goals down for this New Year.  Yes, I plan on losing that same 15 pounds, and start inviting people over for dinner more, and…and…and.

It stopped me short and I re-assessed my goal setting technique.  I decided I’d still have the same categories for my goals.  You know, things like:  spiritual, health, writing, financial…and several others.  But, one major difference.  This year, I would only pick one main goal and see if I could keep that in front of me.

I found that I had completed some of my goals from last year.  I meet with the Lord almost every morning.  I wrote my Blog almost every week of the year.  I continue to write the every morning “Message for Today” encouragement on Face Book.  So, I left those goals off my list for this coming year.  The one goal that I decided was at the top of my list for 2018 was to memorize a Scripture each week.  My first verse is one that’s familiar, but I want to get it “under my belt,” secure for the future.  As I began to memorize Romans 12:1-2, the Lord spoke to my heart, “Your word for this next year, Joanie, is ‘transformation.’  I want you to be transformed in all areas of your life.  I want you to be focused on Me, my child.  Yes, the other areas of change need to take place, but that will happen as you are changed by the ‘renewing of your mind.’  Ask for it…daily!!!”

Wow!  OK…I will.  My desire for the New Year is to be walking so close to the Master that I can sense Him with me, no matter what happens.  I want my life verse to be completely true, “Whatever happens, conduct yourself in a manner worthy of the Gospel of Christ.”  Phil 1:27.

Join me in this endeavor!!!

Get Ready for Christmas

This morning, I read my friend, Jane’s, blog “Are you ready for Christmas?”  She had some great ideas on getting truly ready for Christmas.  But one paragraph stopped me in my tracks, arrested my attention, and gave me pause.  This is what she said, “Being ready for Christmas has nothing to do with checking off the last items on our ‘to do’ lists.  It has everything to do with opening our hearts wider for Jesus.”

I began to do just that.  In the midst of the flurry of activity that my four visiting grandchildren generate amidst the shopping and cooking, and trying to figure out what I’ve forgotten, I began to “widen my heart.”  Although I’ve already received some wonderful, though-filled gifts this Christmas, I soon began to sense the amazing wonder of the Truth of the greatest gift of all – Jesus.

As His peace flooded my heart and His sweet Presence overwhelmed me, I found I could smile through the activity and hub-bub of the day.

As I sang the song Jane mentioned, “Joy to the world, the Lord has come…let every heart prepare Him room…” I found that as I widened my heart, the joy of the Lord filled it up to the brim.  Widen…be filled…widen…be filled.

Thank You, Jesus, for coming into our world as a baby.  Thank You, Lord, for bringing Your peace and joy to fill us up.  We widen our hearts and are filled…with You!

In Search of an Advent Wreath

I grew up in a mainline church denomination in the Midwest.  These lovely people taught me about the saving Grace of God, how memorizing Scripture will help in the most unusual of times, the importance of faith, hope, and love to guide our lives.  They taught me to love to worship and to love missions.  But there were a few gaps in my teaching that I found out about in my later years.

One of these is the age old tradition of the Advent Wreath.  Just in case some of you are questioning what I’m talking about, let me explain.

An Advent Wreath sits on a table and holds four candles – three are purple and one pink.  Each of these candles represents a beautiful quality of God’s grace shown to us through the birth of His Son, Jesus:  Love, Joy, Peace, and Hope.  On the four Sundays preceding Christmas, one of these candles is lit and a reading done about that quality.  Then, on Christmas Day, a fifth candle, a white one, is lit to represent the Christ Child, the Baby Jesus.

I decided to purchase an Advent Wreath this year to enhance my worship during the Christmas season.  I waited too long.  Several friends told me I could get one at Michaels…or Hobby Lobby.  I tried and failed.

However, I did have one wonderful interaction with a young man at Michaels that made my holiday season bright.  Seeing he was a worker there, I asked him if he knew where I could find an Advent Wreath.  The questioning look on his face should have told me something.  He said, “Advent?  Like in a countdown to something?”  My eyes brightened as I replied, “Yes, the countdown to Jesus’ birthday.”  He looked surprised so I continued, explaining the four candles and how they are lit each Sunday before Christmas, then, culminating with the white candle in the middle representing the birth of the Baby Jesus.

He pulled up his radio and checked with the supply people to see if there were any Advent Wreaths to be found.  Sadly, there were not.  I thanked him anyway and then, as I turned away, he said, “That’s pretty cool about the candles.”  I glanced at him and saw that he was sincere.

My day was complete, even though I didn’t find a wreath.  I prayed that the words that came out of my mouth were the exact words God needed that young man to hear.  Who knows?  Maybe he already knows Jesus and it was just a new way to look at the Christmas season for him.  Or perhaps, he didn’t know Jesus at all and this was his introduction.  Only God knows.

These words popped into my mind, “Be ready to give a reason of the hope that is within you.”  Sometimes, we don’t know we are ready…until we have the opportunity, the unplanned opportunity to tell someone about our hope.